Listening to others is important in both your personal and professional lives. Active listening involves listening with all your senses. It requires focus and effort, whilst allowing you to fully understand others and connect with them. It’s the key to all effective communication and if you don’t listen properly, messages can easily be misunderstood which can cause confusion or even upset. Taking the time to listen to your loved ones or work colleagues can actually make you feel happier. Listening properly to somebody can be very calming for them, reassuring and can prevent an underlying issue from growing arms and legs.
So how do we become better active listeners?
1. Remove or avoid distractions – We’re all guilty (me included!) of having our smartphone glued to us, with one eye on the screen whilst pretending to fully listen to somebody. Get rid of the smartphone, turn the TV or laptop off and concentrate on the person in front of you. Try going for a walk and leaving the phone at home so the distractions are nowhere in sight.
2. Pay attention to the person who is talking and maintain good eye contact. Good listeners show genuine interest by asking probing questions and more importantly they don’t interrupt or offer solutions mid conversation.
3. Think about your body language. Consider how far away or how close you are to the person. Make sure you face the person who is talking because it shows that you’re interested and willing to listen. Think about your posture and facial expressions because they can be quite telling to the person sat opposite you.
4. Wait until the person has finished talking before commenting because they may just want to sound off to somebody. Remember to always withhold your own assumptions to prevent jumping to conclusions. Give them a chance to get whatever it is off their chest.
5. Be honest with the other person. If you’re tired or in a rush, ask them if you can continue the conversation later so you can focus on listening to them properly. Always make sure you return to the conversation because they may really need to chat.
6. If you’re asked for advice, always think before you speak. Use personal examples or situations that you’ve been in and offer suggestions which you think may help.
We all express our emotions in very different ways, so try not to judge people whilst you’re listening. Always be honest and empathetic, but most of all be kind. If you can’t be kind, be quiet!
Take the leap of faith. Make the Change. Not tomorrow. Not next week, but NOW.